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ASTC to turn aggregator, acquire 4,000 buses in 4 years
Rituraj Borthakur

 GUWAHATI, Feb 10 - Donning the role of an aggregator, the Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) is planning to add 4,000 buses to its fleet in four years to augment public transport and promote entrepreneurship.

ASTC managing director Anand Prakash Tiwari told The Assam Tribune that under the new scheme, announced in the 2019-20 budget, the corporation will work as a regulator-cum-facilitator to ensure quality service in well defined routes.

At present, the bus density in Assam per 1,000 population is 0.59 against a national average of 1.19. However, the road density per 1,000 sq km in Assam is 3,624 km, which is well above the national average of 1,427 km. At present, ASTC has only 969 buses which is far (more than four times) lesser than the required number of buses to meet the national average of bus-population ratio.

“In spite of having better road network, the number of buses in Assam per 1,000 population is less. Since the demand for number of buses exceeds supply of the number of buses, increasing the number of buses throughout the State is imperative to give a boost to the State’s economy. To address the shortfall of bus density against a population of 1,000 for Assam in comparison to national average, there is need of at least 4,500 buses to fulfil the demand of public transport across the State,” Tiwari elaborated.

Under the new scheme, 25 per cent of total cost of bus to be purchased will be given by the ASTC whereas the rest 75 per cent will be borne by the beneficiary of the scheme. Selection of beneficiary will be done by the ASTC on recommendation of a separate selection committee. Eligibility criteria of beneficiary will be either the persons who are unemployed and eligible to take credit from banks by fulfilling their norms or start-ups or self-help groups (SHGs) which will be selected on the basis of merit by the selection committee.

The cost of one bus is assessed and kept at Rs 40 lakh. However, this scheme will exclude high-end super luxury bus, costing in the range of Rs 50 lakh to Rs 200 lakh. The bus make, model and type will be decided by the ASTC. Also, the route allocation along with number of buses running on a particular route will be decided by the ASTC.

Any of the start-ups, SHGs, individual entrepreneur can take the benefit from the government by signing a legally binding agreement after the selection under which the beneficiary will be bound to operate the bus for five years under ASTC as an undertaking vehicle of the corporation. The beneficiary will utilise all the public facilities of bus terminus operated by the ASTC on their given route for which they will give a minimum revenue share to the ASTC that has been already defined.

After operating their buses for a minimum duration of five years with the ASTC, the beneficiaries will have an option to withdraw their vehicles from the corporation. Once the beneficiary chooses to withdraw the vehicle from this scheme after completion of five years, they will have to return the initial 25 per cent of the total capital expenditure (capex) incurred by the ASTC after deducting a subsidy of 10 per cent of the total capex.

In effect, the beneficiary will have to return 15 per cent of the total capex to the ASTC in case they choose to withdraw from the scheme after completion of five years.

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